Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy has made headlines, often because it is favored by elite athletes like Tiger Woods and Rafael Nadal to help them recover from injury. Doctors are now using PRP therapy and injections for several reasons, from encouraging hair growth, promoting soft tissue healing, and decreasing inflammation.
How does it work? Plasma is a component of your blood that contains special proteins and growth factors in addition to platelets. Platelets are blood cells that help your blood clot and contain other proteins that help wounds to heal. Researchers have shown that when injecting PRP into damaged tissues it stimulates your body to grow new healthy cells and promote healing. Because the tissue growth factors are 5-10 times more concentrated in the PRP, researchers think the body’s tissues will heal faster.
A small blood sample is taken from the individual and put into a centrifuge which spins at high speed to separate the red blood cells from the platelets and plasma producing PRP. The concentrated PRP is then injected into the desired treatment area.
Doctors first used PRP to aid in healing from post surgical procedures but today there are many more uses. PRP promotes healing in difficult to heal areas like tendons and ligaments. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties it is used to treat patients with osteoarthritis and also those with acute sports injuries to muscles or knees.
One of the newest areas of great success has been in promoting hair growth and preventing further hair loss in both men and women. This has been successfully used in male pattern baldness as well as alopecia or hair thinning. PRP has also very positive results in treating facial wrinkles and acne scars. The PRP when used with microneedling can stimulate the body’s own collagen and elastin to regenerate, producing a more youthful appearance to the skin.
What are the side effects? Since injecting PRP uses the person’s own plasma and platelets, they usually do not experience any adverse reactions. However, it is possible that the person may have pain, irritation or mild bleeding at the injection site. Recovery time is minimal. Most people resume their normal activities almost immediately after the procedure. The average time from blood-drawing to the treatment is typically 30-45 minutes.